.—(1) The expressions "society, institution or committee" and "society in the enactments conferring the following exemptions from entertainments duty, that is to say—
shall, for the purposes of those exemptions, include a local authority and any committee or sub-committee of a local authority.
(2) On a claim made by a local authority (but not by a committee or sub-committee) in respect of the exemption for performances provided by a body whose aims, objects and activities are partly educational, or of the exemption for certain amateur performances. the Commissioners shall have regard to the entertainments provided by the local authority, being entertainments which are, or apart from either of those exemptions would be, chargeable on the first scale of duty, and shall treat the local authority as not established or conducted for profit if they are satisfied that those entertainments are not provided for profit; and in considering for the purposes of the first of those two exemptions whether the local authority's aims, objects and activities are partly educational, the Commissioners shall have regard to those entertainments, and not to any other activities of the local authority.
(3) On a claim made as aforesaid in respect of the exemption for certain amateur sports, the Commissioners shall have regard to the entertainments provided by the local authority, being entertainments consisting of games. races or other sports which are, or apart from that exemption would be, chargeable on the second scale of duty, and shall treat the local authority as established and conducted for the promotion and furtherance of amateur games or sports and as not established or conducted for profit if they are satisfied that the local authority provides the entertainments to which they are to have regard under this subsection for the promotion and furtherance of amateur games and sports, and not for profit.
(4) On a claim made as aforesaid in respect of any of the exemptions for exhibitions or the exemption for entertainments provided for partly scientific purposes, the Commissioners shall have regard to the entertainments provided by the local authority of a kind to which the exemption relates, and shall treat the local authority as not established or conducted for profit if they are satisfied that those entertainments are not provided for profit.
(5) The provisions of this section shall not restrict the cases in which a reduced rate of duty is chargeable under section fifteen of the Finance Act, 1950 (which relates to entertainments consisting partly of a cinematograph film and partly of some entertainment which by itself would be chargeable on the first scale of duty).
(6) This section shall apply, and shall be deemed to have applied, to payments for admission (whenever made) to any entertainment held on or after the first day of July. nineteen hundred and fifty-four, and to any previous entertainment as respects which a claim for exemption made before that date had not then been disposed of by the Commissioners.
(7) In this section—
Brought up, read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This Clause is designed to secure the eminently conservative purpose of restoring the law to what it was recently believed to be. The Committee will recall that until recently entitlement to exemption from Entertainments Duty on the various grounds under different Acts of Parliament has been available to local authorities providing entertainments in the same way as anybody else. It is broadly with the intention of restoring that position in circumstances which I will briefly describe that we have thought it necessary and desirable to bring forward this new Clause. The new Clause covers the various grounds on which exemption can be granted but is perhaps particularly and most directly concerned with the exemption to be obtained under Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1946, which is the partly education exemption. To complete the background, the Committee will remember that in 1952 the House approved of a provision in the Finance Act of that year which was designed to prevent an abuse, in particular in connection with the provision directly or indirectly of variety or music hall entertainment. The subsequent history leading up to this Clause is this. A case was fought in the Chancery Division of the High Court recently between the Eastbourne Corporation and Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise. The Commissioners had the advantage of being represented by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, and the Committee will therefore not be surprised to know that they were highly successful. In the course of this case—with the facts of which I need not trouble the Committee, because they relate to specific circumstances—the question arose for consideration as to whether as a matter of law local authorities were entitled to apply for such an exemption. We were advised that as a local authority cannot be properly described as "a society, institution or committee," which are the words of the Finance Act, 1946, Section 8, it was not possible in law for these exemptions to be granted to a local authority. The result, if we accepted the position, would be that it would not be possible for local authorities, providing entertainments of the appropriate character and quality, to seek the exemption which they had sought successfully for a number of years. This difficulty arises not only in connection with the seaside towns, which naturally have a considerable interest in the provision of entertainment to attract visitors, but even with such institutions as the Festival Hall on the other side of the river and entertainments provided by the London County Council. Consequently we had to consider what was the best step to take. The courses open to the Government in those circumstances seemed to be two. One was to accept the view of the law which we were given as the result of consideration of the matter after the Eastbourne case, and accept the position that although—as it now appears wrongly—exemptions had been granted to the local authorities for a number of years, we must now consider ourselves unable to give those exemptions. That would have had the consequence that all entertainments of whatever character provided by a local authority would have attracted Entertainments Duty. The other course to take is the one I am recommending to the Committee. It is that we should put into this Finance Bill a new Clause which will broadly restore the position to what it was believed to be before the Eastbourne case. It is with that purpose that I have moved this Motion. There is one subsection to which I ought specially to invite the attention of the Committee. Subsection (6) reads:
The reason we have thought it desirable to insert that provision is that, since we received the advice of the Law Officers, it has been thought proper for the Commissioners not to grant exemptions and, therefore, a number of cases have been held up for consideration. The date 1st July appeared as a long shot to be a fairly accurate forecast of the date at which it might be possible to seek the approval of this Committee for this Clause. If the Committee, and in due course the House, accept the Clause, it will then be possible to resume the practice of granting exemptions with the minimum dislocation. The Committee will appreciate that this is the time of year, so far as the seaside towns are concerned, when they are naturally particularly concerned with the provision of entertainments. It is equally the fact that if we are to restore the law to the position in which it was believed to be, we ought to do our best to minimise the dislocation. It is for that purpose that this subsection has been inserted in the new Clause. The law on the matter is complicated and, if any specific point of law arises, my right hon. and learned Friend is available to deal with it. The broad purpose and policy is to secure that the law as it affects the power to grant exemption to local authorities shall be restored to the position in which it was believed to be before that case, a situation which I suggest to the Committee operated not unsatisfactorily The choice is between doing that and regarding local authorities as not being qualified for an exemption for which other people can apply. In the circumstances, it seems right to restore the law to what we believe to be the position.This section shall apply, and shall be deemed to have applied, to payments for admission (whenever made) to any entertainment held on or after the first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, and to any previous entertainment as respects which a claim for exemption made before that date had not then been disposed of by the Commissioners.
I should like to ask two questions. In subsection (2) the first line reads:
I want to ask a purely technical question. Certainly there are some activities that might fall within the Clause which are carried on by a committee or subcommittee of a local authority. Unless there is a purely technical reason, I do not see why they should be excluded from the Clause. The other question is about subsection (6). At first sight it seems a curious provision that the Clause should take effect from a certain date but that it should also cover cases which had not been finally disposed of by the Commissioners before that date. I was not clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said whether or not there are some cases which were, or which will be, disposed of by the Commissioners before that date and others which are virtually on all fours which will not be disposed of. Obviously, that would be an unfortunate position. Would not it be better to fix a definite date or to say that all outstanding cases which were thought to be covered by an exemption should not now benefit from that exemption? I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that the impression was that the local authorities were exempted. It is now discovered that they are not. Would not it be better to make the Clause completely retrospective in this connection rather than to allow some cases to fall within it and to exclude others?"On a claim made by a local authority (but not by a committee or sub-committee) …"
The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the complicated drafting of subsection (2) that is necessary to secure that local authorities shall be able to come within the provisions of Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1946—the partly educational provisions. Under that Act, only if all such entertainments are not provided for profit and, in the case of this exemption, demonstrate partly educational aims, objects and activities, can the local authority establish its title to exemption. One has therefore to provide here what is to be treated for the purposes of Section 8 of the 1946 Mt as relevant. Otherwise, it might be possible for another committee of a local authority otherwise engaged to lose the entitlement to exemption.The hon. Gentleman asked about subsection (6). The practice has been that pending a decision of the Committee—and later of the House—applications have been suspended with a view to dealing with them favourably, if they can be dealt with favourably, on their merits.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.